The long-awaited follow-up to The War on Drugs‘ breakthrough album “Lost in the Dream” finally arrived on August 25, 2017, after intensive touring around the world.

“A Deeper Understanding” isn’t very different from its predecessor. Many of the winner elements are still in the mix: long and spread out guitar solos, Adam Granduciel’s typical singing, and constant drumming throughout a song that flattens any intensity variation. One of the trademarks of this band is to fly through 5 to 7 minutes’ songs with rhythmic stability. Its almost hypnotic, in a rock way.

The first songs on “A Deeper Understanding” are somehow smoother than the ones we were used to. Up All Night has some electronic drumming involved and Pain is essentially built on acoustic guitars (with lighter electric guitars, still). We can hear three or four guitars on this song! Holding On has a lot of keyboards in it, which gives it an 80s feel and also shows the band’s influences : The Waterboys, Bob Dylan… On slower songs like Strangest Thing, Granduciel’s singing is closer to the folk master than ever.

Here are a few songs from the band, video clips and live performances at KEXP, in Seattle, earlier this year.


The War on Drugs was formed way back in 2005 and initially included indie rock star Kurt Vile before he formed his own musical project. Granduciel (born in Oakland, California), David Hartley (bass), Robbie Bennett (keyboards), Charlie Hall (drums), Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) and Anthony LaMarca (guitar) started things in Philadelphia with Vile on board, releasing “Wagonwheel Blues” in 2008. Vile stated in an interview with John Freeman “Kurt Vile | The Line of Best Fit” back in 2012, “Adam was the first dude I met when I moved back to Philadelphia in 2003. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things. I was obsessed with Bob Dylan at the time, and we totally geeked-out on that. We started playing together in the early days and he would be in my band, The Violators. Then, eventually I played in The War On Drugs.”

In another interview for the blog Pop Headwound in 2008, Granduciel reveals how he came up with the band name The War on Drugs: “We were writing a lot back then, working on a dictionary, and it just came out and we were like “hey good band name” so eventually when I moved to Philadelphia and got a band together I used it. (…) I always felt though that it was the kind of name I could record all sorts of different music under without any sort of predictability inherent in the name…kind of mysterious—but you HAVE TO have the “The” in there…”

Overall, it’s an album that The War on Drugs fans will enjoy as it’s in the continuity of their previous work, even though it is definitely slower and lighter, and does sound like a re-run of the same music here and there.

war on drugs A_Deeper_Understanding

A Deeper Understanding
(Atlantic Records, 2017)

-Genre: indie guitar rock
-In the same ballpark as Kurt Vile and the Violators, The National

Buy the album on Google Play
Follow the band via their Facebook page
Listen to videos on the band’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Mélomane invétéré plongeant dans tous les genres et époques, Nicolas Pelletier a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts depuis 1991, dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur, dont il a également été le rédacteur en chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie "Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique" en 2013, lance le site RREVERB en 2014, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016. Il dirige maintenant la stratégie numérique d'ICI Musique, la radio musicale de Radio-Canada.